Five cant-miss golf courses in Scottsdale
No. 16 at TPC Scottsdale is one of the PGA Tour's signature holes. (Getty Images)
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – With more than 200 golf courses in the Phoenix-Scottsdale area, it seems the choices are endless. So how do you narrow it down?
Well, if you've never been to Scottsdale – and you're not looking for a bargain – there are certain golf courses that would qualify as must-play venues. As we see it, here are five can't-miss golfing experiences in that area code:
Troon North Golf Club
There are 36 holes at Troon North – the Monument Course and the Pinnacle Course – and both are as good as they are expensive during peak season (count on paying two bills or more). But they're always in terrific shape, especially during the winter.
The Pinnacle Course, which is set up against the base of Pinnacle Peak, is classic desert target golf. Fairways are more than generous, but approach shots must be fairly precise to reach these perfect undulating greens. The Monument Course, which is widely considered the better of the two, is named for the monument boulder on the third hole. With tees perched high above fairways, it has a few forced carries, but they don't keep it from being quite playable overall. Both courses feature great views of the valleys and some spectacular homes (that don't come into play). Practice facilities are outstanding.
Things at Troon North got even better in 2007, when original architects Tom Weiskopf and Jay Morrish renovated the courses, which included rerouting by switching some holes on the back nine. In the end, it made both courses easier to get around, plus they now have a little more of a links feel.
TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course
Home of the most raucous fans on the PGA Tour, the Weiskopf-Morrish designed Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale is something you'll want to experience. If for no other reason than to play the par-3 16th hole, even if you're not surrounded by 50,000 hecklers in pastel booing your tee shot or cheering your putt.
These days, the 16th is completely enclosed during the Waste Management Phoenix Open, making it one of the most unique amphitheaters in all of golf. All you have to do is add a little imagination.
This is also a facility (which also includes the TPC Champions Course) that more than two dozen PGA Tour players call home. It's also where noted teacher Jim Flick bases his game-improvement clinics.
Grayhawk Golf Club
Another facility with two terrific layouts, Grayhawk Golf Club is definitely a Scottsdale standout. Both the Talon and the Raptor courses at Grayhawk have hosted numerous high-profile events, including the Accenture Match Play in the late 1990s.
Most recently, the Raptor Course has been the site of the Frys.com Open, which is part of the PGA Tour's Fall Series. This Tom Fazio-designed shotmaker's course has plenty of cool holes, including the short 330-yard 'Wee One' par-4 15th that provides the ultimate in risk-reward (stray drivers usually wind up in the desert).
The Talon Course, which is designed by David Graham and Gary Panks, gives Grayhawk a really nice 1-2 combination. Fairways are tighter on this course, but like its sister, conditioning on the tees and greens is usually immaculate.
Afterwards, check out Phil's Grill (named after Phil Mickelson) for drinks and great views of the golf course and nearby McDowell Mountains.
Westin Kierland Resort and Spa
With 27 holes, there's plenty of golf to choose from at Westin Kierland Resort and Spa. Since the course is designed by Scott Miller, most of the holes are pretty wide open and forgiving ... but it's no pushover, especially the Acacia Nine, which ends with a terrific risk-reward par 5.
If you're really adventurous, you can try your hand at one of the golf course's Segways instead of a golf cart. It comes with training, fortunately, and it's a pretty quick way to get around the golf course once you get the hang of it.
Another techie innovation at the Kierland: a sort of air-conditioning system on golf carts. The devices blow cool air on the back of your neck while you're riding, which can be a real godsend during one of Arizona's triple-digit days.
The resort is also home to the LaBauve Golf Academy, featuring top teachers Mike and Sandy LaBauve. The instruction at Kierland is rounded out with a top-notch clubfitting program, as well as the ForeMax golf conditioning program.
Talking Stick Golf Club
Ben Crenshaw-Bill Coore designed golf courses are almost always excellent, and 36-hole Talking Stick Golf Club is no exception.
Named for the traditional wooden stick used on Pima Indian calendars, Talking Stick is a prime example of minimalist design. Crenshaw and Coore went for a links feel (as opposed to a desert feel) over on the longer, more difficult North Course. In excess of 7,100 yards, this par 70 has wide fairways, no trees and plenty of bunkers.
The South Course has a little more elevation change and some tree-lined fairways. A bit shorter, it's also more straightforward than the North Course. With designers like this behind them, it's no surprise that both courses are always in excellent shape.
This story originally published on TravelGolf.com.
Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.
According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.
Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.
Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.
Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.
And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.
Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.
Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:
The Monday morning headline will be …
REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.
RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.
MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.
JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.
Who or what will be the biggest surprise?
HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.
LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.
BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.
COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.
Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?
HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.
LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.
BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.
COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.
What will be the winning score?
HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.
LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.
BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.
COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.
Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty
Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.
Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.
This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):
While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:
Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.
McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.
Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.
“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”
McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.
“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”
He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.